There are three reasons to make tonight’s launch of Pakatan Harapan Johor a memorable and historic milestone in the struggle for democracy in Malaysia.
First, the choice of Johor as the first state to launch Pakatan Harapan together with PKR President and Parliamentary Opposition Leader, Datuk Seri Dr. Wan Azizah Wan Ismail and the President of Parti AMANAH Negara, Mohamad Sabu underlines the importance of Johor in the ongoing battle for political change in Malaysia in the run-up to the 14th General Election.
Until the 13th General Election two years ago in May 2013, Johor was a political backyard in the quest for political and democratic change, as the frontline states in the political battleground were in the north, Penang, Perak, Selangor and Kelantan.
The launching of Pakatan Harapan in Johor tonight is a clear signal that Johor is no more a political backwater but a front-line state for political change, especially in the 14th General Election which must be held by 2018.
In the 14th GE, all eyes will be focussed on Johor (as well as Sabah and Sarawak) as the “kingmaker states”, as whether Pakatan Harapan can succeed in replacing UMNO/BN in Putrajaya will depend to a large extent on the success of Pakatan Harapan in Johor.
As late as the 12th General Election in 2008, UMNO/Barisan Nasional leaders were still boasting about their objective to make Johor a zero-opposition state, highlighting the great political changes wrought by the 13th General Election.
This is because no UMNO/BN leader would now be so arrogant or foolhardy as to repeat such a boast or claim that Johor is an invincible UMNO/BN fortress or “fixed deposit” state as everyone knows that UMNO/BN will be fighting a life-and-death struggle if they want to continue to be the Johor State Government in the 14GE.
The Pakatan Harapan parties of DAP, PKR and AMANAH will stand as one solid unit to ensure that Pakatan Harapan’s victory in Johor will be the forerunner of Pakatan Harapan’s victory in Putrajaya and that the path to victory in Putrajaya will be paved by our victory in Nusajaya.
Pakatan Rakyat stands for the fulfilment of the Malaysian Dream – that although we are separately Chinese, Malays, Indians, Kadazans or Ibans, we are also united as Malaysians.
The last few months have seen some irresponsible political leaders and parties unscrupulously playing the race and religious cards, the classic British colonial strategy of “divide and rule”, as they see this as the only way to perpetuate their political power.
We in Pakatan Harapan reject such irresponsible politics, for we do not want Malaysians to be more fragmented along racial and religious lines, but to be more united and inclusive despite their racial and religious differences, to make Malaysia a great and successful story for all Malaysians – in politics, economic development, good governance and nation-building.
Secondly, the launch of Pakatan Harapan in Johor tonight is significant because three days ago on Oct. 6, the Malay Rulers issued a historic and unprecedented statement expressing their concern about three national issues which had also haunted thinking and patriotic Malaysians – the 1MDB scandal, the rule of law and national unity in the country.
This is proof that ordinary Malaysians, regardless of race, religion, region or politics are one with the Malay Rulers – for they are all concerned and worried about the future of Malaysia which had been battered by a long-running and ever-worsening national crisis of confidence in the government of the day.
Was the Malay Rulers’ Statement which was issued on the evening of Tuesday, Oct. 6 on the agenda of the the Cabinet the next day, as Ministers meet every Wednesday for their Cabinet meeting?
If the Cabinet had taken the Malay Rulers’ Statement seriously, as was their duty, why was there no Cabinet statement after the meeting of the Ministers on Wednesday about the Cabinet response?
The first official response was only made more than 48 hours after the Malay Rulers’ Statement was issued, a statement issued in the name of the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi, which is clearly unsatisfactory and unacceptable.
I suspect the Cabinet had been quite irresponsible and had failed to discuss the Malay Rulers’ Statement when it met on 7th Oct.
However, I am prepared to stand corrected, and either the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak or the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Zahid Hamidi should clarify whether the Malay Rulers’ Statement and their concerns about 1MDB, the rule of law and national unity was on the agenda of the Cabinet on 7th Oct – and if so, the outcome of the Cabinet deliberations on the Malay Rulers’ Statement.
The third significance of tonight’s launch of Pakatan Harapan Johor is the international news just now that the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to four civil society organisations in Tunisia, the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, for their decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy and guiding Tunisia through a political transition more peaceful than transitions in the other Arab Spring countries like Libya, Egypt and Yemen.
It was an award to honour the quest for democracy in the nation that gave birth to the Arab Spring (when Tunisian street vendor Mohammed Bouazizi immolated himself on Dec. 17, 2010, to protest official repression and corruption), and to urge Tunisians to soldier on for a progressive, pluralist and inclusive democracy when these goals are increasingly under threat.
The quartet of groups, including a labor union with about one million members, has worked to advance democracy in Tunisia, which still struggles with unrest but has made relative strides toward reforms even as other Arab Spring nations face greater violence, instability and the reemergence of dictatorships.
What the Tunisians are going through in their struggle to build, a progressive, pluralist and inclusive democracy is what Pakatan Harapan parties, DAP, PKR and Parti AMANAH Negara, are striving to build in Malaysia out of our diversity of races, religions, languages and cultures.
Malaysians are interested in the Tunisian struggle for democracy, for it has produced the first Islamist political movement in the world which firmly stands for a progressive, pluralist and inclusive democracy.
This is why together with some DAP MPs including Teresa Kok (Seputeh), Zairil Khir Johari (Bukit Bendera), Liew Chin Tong (Kluang), Sim Chee Keong (Bukit Mertajam) and the Deputy President of Parti Amanah Negara, Salahuddin Ayub, I will be visiting Tunisia to learn from their experience.
The battle for justice, freedom and human dignity of Pakatan Harapan is not just for Malaysia but is part of mankind’s battle for justice, freedom and human dignity world-wide and down the ages.
(Speech at the launching of Pakatan Harapan Johor in Kulai on Friday, 9th October 2015 at 10 pm)